The Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program (the Program) introduces two initiatives to assist child victims of sexual offences engage with the criminal justice system. These initiatives are:
A component of the Program is expansion of the use of pre-recorded evidence. Previously, only the evidence-in-chief (the initial interview conducted by the police within the Joint Child Protection Response Program - JCPRP) was pre-recorded and the child victim was then required to attend court to provide further evidence (cross-examination) at the trial. The court now allows for cross-examination and any re-examination of child complainants and child prosecution witnesses to be pre-recorded as well.
This separate pre-recording takes place before a judge and lawyers, not a jury, and the child victim or witness can give their evidence from outside the courtroom, from a remote witness room, so they do not have to encounter the accused person.
These pre-recordings are then played back to a jury at the trial, rather than the child having to attend court.
The Program also introduces witness intermediaries to the justice process. Witness intermediaries are accredited professionals from five primary disciplines; Speech Pathology, Social Work, Psychology, Teaching and Occupational Therapy.
The role of the witness intermediary is to assess child victims and witness' communication needs and inform police and the court of the best ways to communicate with the child giving evidence.
The witness intermediary conducts a thorough assessment of the child's communication needs at two stages in the process – prior to the police interview and again prior to the pre-recording of evidence at court. The witness intermediary also attends court during the pre-recorded hearing. It is important to note that the witness intermediary is not a support person, rather an independent and impartial participant in the process.
Parents, guardians and carers will be notified of the opportunity to involve a witness intermediary during the police interviewing stage if it is assessed that the child victim or witness may have some communication difficulties. If a parent/guardian/carer is aware that the child victim may have communication difficulties, it is important to notify the police handling the matter at the earliest possible opportunity.
The overall aim of the Program is to reduce the stress and trauma experienced by children and vulnerable young persons who are victims and witnesses in sexual offence matters.
The Program commenced on 31 March 2016 in two locations – Newcastle District Court and the Sydney District Court (Downing Centre) – and is scheduled to continue for a period of 3 years.
On 1 April 2019 the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot transitioned to a permanent Program at the existing District Courts and Child Abuse Unit locations and will be funded by NSW Government until June 2022.
Witness Intermediary Procedural Guidance Manual April 2019 (PDF, 484KB)44pp
This procedural guidance manual is a reference document for witness intermediaries. The role of the witness intermediary was established by the Criminal Procedure Amendment (Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot) Act 2015.
Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program - Information for families (PDF, 74KB)2pp
Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program - ODPP and Witness Assistance Service (PDF, 81KB)2pp
Legislation (webpage)The Advocate's Gateway (webpage) Media Release Oct 2015 (PDF, 241Kb)Media Release Nov 2018 (PDF, 166Kb)
For further information relating to the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program, please contact Victims Services, NSW Department of Justice:
P 02 8688 2540E firstname.lastname@example.orgA Locked bag 5118, Parramatta NSW 2124